Tafsir Zone - Surah 8: al-Anfal (The Spoils Of War )

Tafsir Zone

Surah al-Anfal 8:17

Overview (Verses 17 - 18)

God’s Planning and Human Implementation

The sūrah then moves on to show God’s hand as He dictates events, killing the enemies of the believers, and throwing whatever is thrown. The believers, nevertheless, receive the reward, because God wants to perfect His grace on them, helping them to pass well the test He has set for them, and to reward them well for it: “It was not you who slew them, but it was God who slew them. When you threw [a handful of dust], it was not your act, but God’s, so that He might put the believers through a fair test of His own making. Indeed, God hears all and knows all.” (Verse 17)

Many authentic reports explain that the throwing mentioned here refers to the handful of dust the Prophet threw in the direction of the unbelievers, saying “Ugly are those faces! Ugly are those faces!”‘ The dust hit the faces of those God had predetermined to be killed. But the Qur’ānic statement has a much wider import. It refers to God’s planning of the whole affair, beyond the actions of the Prophet and his Companions. This is the reason for following it with God’s words: “So that He might put the believers through a fair test of His own making.” (Verse 17) This means that God guides the believers to prove themselves by going through the test with great determination, so that He grants them victory through it and gives them reward for it. This is the sort of abounding grace that God bestows on His servants.
“Indeed, God hears all and knows all.” (Verse 17) He listens to your appeals and knows your situation. He makes of you a means to accomplish His purpose when He is certain that you are dedicated to His cause. He grants you victory and reward, just as He bestowed both on you at Badr.
“That is so; it is God who shall make feeble the schemes of the unbelievers.” (Verse 18) This follows on the heels of the first aspect of grace. God’s planning does not end by letting you kill your enemies with your own hands, hitting them with what His Messenger threw at them. Nor is it over with granting you strength to enable you to make a good showing in the test He set for you, and to reward you handsomely for it. He adds to all that the frustration of the designs of the unbelievers. There is no room, then, for fear or defeat. Nor is there any reason for the believers to turn their backs to the unbelievers in flight.
These statements are related to all the circumstances of the battle. Since it is God who killed the unbelievers, threw everything at them, helped the believers to put up this good show, and frustrated the designs of the unbelievers, then how come that they dispute over the spoils of war? The whole battle was conducted according to God’s plan and by His will. Their role in it was merely to act as a manifestation of God’s planning and His will.